• Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist addresses the audience at TechNet Europe 2017 in Stockholm.
     Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist addresses the audience at TechNet Europe 2017 in Stockholm.

Europe Confronts Hybrid Combat

January 1, 2018
By Maj. Gen. Erich Staudacher, GEAF (Ret.)

Potential adversaries see few limits as they face the Free World.

The increasing hybrid military threat in Europe is becoming more closely related to developments in cyber technology. Cyber can both favor hybrid warlike activities and bolster situational awareness and swift reaction. Defending a modern society, which depends heavily on social media and critical infrastructure, requires a well-trained and prepared cyber defense force.

The relationship between cyber and hybrid military threats was a focal point of AFCEA Europe’s TechNet Europe, supported by the Swedish minister of defense, October 9-11 in Stockholm. Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist opened up the conference by sharing his firsthand experience of how blackmail, insinuation and false news create political turmoil and increase tensions. He said immediate, well-informed reactions are key to winning this battle.

Most of the Nordic and Baltic countries in Europe are considering a total defense concept. This entails close linkage of military capabilities restricted to use in war with civil cyber defense, law enforcement and the cybersecurity industry to overcome the advantages of criminal or nation-state-sponsored attackers and to keep or regain information dominance.

Industry claimed broad responsibility for supporting governmental and societal cybersecurity, such as situational awareness, by voluntarily providing data on network abnormalities as well as viruses and vulnerabilities. Human resources are key, and they continue to be the restricting factor in building sorely needed security capabilities. Artificial intelligence and new machine learning techniques could stem the shortage and relieve analysts from time-consuming research. Other pluses include reducing the attack surface and building an ecosystem at the edge.

Additional featured speakers included John A. Zangardi, acting U.S. Defense Department chief information officer; Udo Helmbrecht, executive director of the EU Agency for Network and Information Security; and Kevin Scheid, general manager of the NATO Communications and Information Agency. These speakers and others brought insights to various approaches, activities progress and challenges.

For example, police and military interoperability is improving with a three-tiered approach of European, national and regional cyber crime centers to enable information technology forensics transnationally. Part of this effort is a collaborative cyber defense ability, developed under the supervision of the European Defence Agency, which has substantial funds.

Industry perspectives, experience and leading-edge technologies were brought to the stage in pinpoint and topical speeches. The audience of military, police, academia and international AFCEA representatives highly appreciated these.

The first capture-the-flag-style AFCEA hack-athon in Europe also took place in conjunction with the conference. Several international teams competed over two and half days.

TechNet Europe was made possible thanks to close cooperation among AFCEA Europe and AFCEA’s Stockholm and Helsinki chapters. Also, the support of industry partners such as Saab, IBM, AT&T, DXC Technology, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Secunet, Secusmart, Tanium, Google Cloud, Isode, Thales Security, Ciena and CenturyLink was crucial to the conference’s success.

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